Sunday, October 16, 2011


Word to the wise: if the weather forecast is for the 60s, and you question if you should bring a heavy coat but decide against it because you figure it probably will actually be warmer and you won't want to carry said coat around, think again. It will probably actually feel considerably colder due to unceasing and frigid wind, and there may be nothing you want more in the world than a heavy coat. Or a poncho. Or a Snuggie.

But, there is a bright side! This hypothetical situation actually happened to me (did you guess?) and it was at a chocolate festival. Being the person that I am, I can never stay too sad when surrounded by delicious, artisanal chocolates, even when faced with wind, my greatest nemesis.

Gorgeous views all around the festival

All this is to say that, overall, our day trip to the Perugia Chocolate Festival yesterday was a success. We navigated the train systems successfully (though barely), thus avoiding paying almost twice as much for a pre-planned tour and gaining freedom to get there and leave when we wanted. Basically, the festival consisted of an adorable town being overrun by chocolate vendors from all over Europe peddling a massive array of mouthwatering treats. I had a cup of what I hoped would be hot chocolate (the drink) and actually turned out to be more like hot chocolate pudding (still delicious), tried a chocolate kebab, had chocolate cake drizzled in hot chocolate sauce, some kind of chocolate granola bar they gave out for free, and probably far too many other plain milk chocolate varieties.

Just a glimpse of how many people were crowding the streets

Never happier than when I'm in a tent full of homemade chocolate

Fly away to chocolate planet?

Chocolate tents were everywhere, and at one end of the festival there was a giant display of a Lindt bear with a huge line leading up to it. With no idea what people were waiting in line for, of course we decided to join. Unfortunately, we never figured out exactly what we were waiting for, but I'm assuming it was to win something as we had to pick out a red ball from a container and open it to see if there was anything in it. All of ours were empty, so we only came away with pictures with the giant bear and tiny chocolate Lindt bears of our own (delectable), but at least we tried!

I'm not sure there's anything that could make me happier than to actually BE a bear made of chocolate

My tiny bear with the very BIG bear

Today, I leave on my week-long adventure with my mom through France and Switzerland! I can't wait to see the French countryside and go paragliding in the French Alps, and am anxiously awaiting my mom's (hopefully) imminent arrival.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Amalfi Coast

Sorrento at 8 AM

If you ever want to avoid getting any sleep for a couple weeks, go to the Amalfi Coast the weekend after you go to Oktoberfest and turn 21. I have been alternately traveling and attempting to catch up on work nonstop for the past couple weeks, but it's been completely worth it. The Amalfi Coast trip was another of the best weekends, and I definitely want to go back some day. 

About to get on the boat (which I kept calling a bus all weekend)

We left Thursday night, again, and got in pretty late/early Friday morning. We immediately crashed at the hostel and then had to be up in time to leave at 7:20 in the morning to go to Capri. Capri was one of the places I was most excited for, but it could not have gone less according to plan. It started off beautifully: we took a gorgeous boat tour around the island and saw the major sites (although the tide was too high to go in the Blue Grotto) and then docked at Capri and hiked to Capri Town to look around and go in a garden with scenic outlooks. Unfortunately it started to rain while we were there, which was just the beginning of the weather altering our plans for the day. We went to lunch, where I had amazing pizza and Ravioli Caprese (amazing), and then looked around at the handmade sandals and limoncello. We still had a few hours left, so we decided to take the chairlift to the highest point on the island (the top of Anacapri) to see the views, even though it looked a little foggy. Little did we know that the "little fog" would soon turn into the craziest lightning storm I've ever seen. Long story short, once we got to the top, we went into the little coffee shop, and watched the drizzle turn to pouring turn to hail, and then listened to the loudest thunder I've EVER heard, while lightning flashed overhead. Suffice to say, when the electrical sockets started smoking and the workers were freaking out, I've never been more scared in my life. But, moral of the story, we lived! Even though the chairlift broke in the storm and we had to hike down the mountain. 

The Green Grotto -- the most gorgeous color of water!

Lover's Tunnel

View of the coastline from the gardens

Custom-made shoes

Chairlift on the way up

Post-storm -- we survived!

Hiking down the mountain and finally seeing some views

That night, we went to one of the most delicious restaurants I've been to where I experienced Nutella pizza for the first time....something everyone needs to have before they die. It was called Nutella pizza but was really more of a calzone, and was, simply put, the most delicious dessert ever. Then we went to this outdoor bar/club where we danced for awhile until heading back to the hostel. 

Nutella pizza. To die for.

One of my happiest eating moments

Our group of the weekend, plus a random Italian man

The next morning we got to sleep in a little bit before heading to Positano for a beach day! We went out on a boat shortly after getting there to go cliff jumping, which was a big highlight of the trip. There were two different cliffs to jump off of, one of which you had to scale the side of the cliff to get to, but was totally worth it to jump off a higher ledge. The weather got a little iffy after that, but at least it didn't rain and we had a lightning-free day! That night we just stayed at the hostel's bar where there was a live band, which made for a really fun atmosphere. 

View of Positano walking down from the bus

Getting to the beautiful beach

Molly and I on the boat to go cliff jumping


Here I gooooo!

I can't get over how pretty the water is!

As we were leaving -- the clouds made for a gorgeous sunset

At the hostel's bar

The next day we headed to Pompeii before going home. Seeing Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius was really cool, but it was very cold and got progressively chillier and windier, which made me ready for the tour to end. But overall it was very interesting and I'm definitely glad I got to see it.

A preserved man who died when Mount Vesuvius erupted


It must have been such a pretty city

An amazingly well-preserved house and pretty garden

We made it back to Florence by 8 or 9, and as sad as I was for the weekend to end, this really does feel like home. I love that when I go on vacations here, I'm just as happy to come back as I am to have been on the trip. I can't even imagine what it's going to feel like to move back to America after living here; this apartment and city have a place in my heart that I don't think will ever be filled by another place. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ventuno at Oktoberfest!

I can definitively say that there is no better way to celebrate turning 21 than at Oktoberfest in Munich. Not only was the weekend one of the best of my life, but Munich is one of my new favorite cities. The weekend was the epitome of spontaneous decisions and ended up being the perfect combination of sightseeing and festivities.

Hippodrom tent: first stop of the day

We left Florence relatively late Thursday night and due to some complications did not check into our hostel until about 9 AM Friday morning. But, everything worked out, and we navigated the U-Bahn to make it to Oktoberfest around 10 or 10:30 in the morning. It was an immediate blur of lederhosen, bright colors, and Bavarian cheerfulness. As one of the tour guides explained on the bus, imagine a state fair, only 20 times bigger and centered around beer.

Schottenhammel: our favorite tent
Saturday we decided to do a little sightseeing. We walked around Marienplatz, which is filled with beautiful architecture, and ventured to the Englischer Garten. This is a huge, incredibly green park that's just overflowing with contented people, as well as beer gardens. The two may be connected. We rented a paddle boat for half an hour and paddled around the lake in the beautiful sunshine. We couldn't have asked for better weather for the weekend (aside from the freezing mornings). We also tracked down the spot in the river with just the right current for surfers -- one of the coolest things I've seen. I had read about this place over the summer and was so excited to see it in real life.

So peaceful
Paddle boating!
Beer garden that seats up to 7,000 people with inexplicable but pretty Chinese pagoda  in the middle
Munich cool.
We returned to Oktoberfest around 4:45 that afternoon and spent the rest of that night battling the massively increased crowds (understandable since it was the last weekend of the festival) and having a fantastic time. Sunday we came back once again to buy souvenirs (I came away with some pretzel shaped earrings and a boot!). Altogether, the weekend was a mass of accents, meeting people, singing, steins, and falling in love with beautiful Germany.

Crowds trying to get into Lowenbrau

I love Oktoberfest!
When I returned on Monday, it was officially my 21st birthday! My roommates immediately took me to our favorite bar for a birthday drink, regardless of the fact that it was 2 AM and we still had all our luggage after 9 hours on a bus. That night we went to dinner on the Arno River and then out dancing. Altogether, even though 21 doesn't have the same significance here as in America, I couldn't ask for a better way to celebrate my birthday than in 2 of the most beautiful countries I've ever been to.

21 at Amadeus
Waiting for our table with free champagne :)
Out in Florence